There are a bunch of fitness trackers on the market at the moment. Hundreds, or probably thousands. They all do a similar thing and is equipped with their own, customized ways of doing things and logging stuff. But how do you select one? Our focus today is on Garmin Vivoactive HR review.
Now, you stumbled on this page because you’re probably interested in the Garmin Vivoactive HR watch. Perhaps, you heard about it from a trusted friend, or have been combing the web reading numerous reviews before deciding on getting one.
I exercise often, whether at the gym or running and if I’m 100 percent honest when I tell you that I’ve never really thought it’s necessary to get a fitness tracker. Even though I’ve tested a lot of it but I have never felt like, “Yeah… I’ll likely actually purchase this one.” Not until I came across the Vivoactive HR.
Basically, the Vivoactive HR is Garmin’s second attempt at a big sophisticated sports-focused watch. Across Garmin’s huge variety of specialist sports smartwatches, the Vivoactive HR model is the only device built to do it all, and bring together all those different modes in one fitness smartwatch.
Garmin hasn’t allowed competition from Apple, Samsung, or even Fitbit to slow down its desire to develop the best GPS fitness device for every single section of the activity tracking market. Now, the newest evidence is the Vivoactive HR, the newest addition to the brand’s famous Vivo series of fitness bands.
Heart rate monitoring, fitness tracking, golfing, running, swimming, cycling, and smartwatch notifications: they’re all loaded in this device. Not to mention indoor rowing, cross-country skiing, indoor running, indoor cycling, and a lot more.
Garmin Vivoactive HR is a Fenix, Forerunner, Approach, Swim, and Edge all packed in one wristwatch, at least to some degree. It’s the shameless “jack of all trades for the weekend warrior.” Specifically designed for the kind of individual who runs in the morning, hacks about 18 holes on the golf course in the noon, and takes a long Sunday walk with his family.
But is Garmin Vivoactive HR sports smartwatch the perfect device for you? We’ve put the watch to the test to find out what it can really do, and below are our findings.
- Garmin Vivoactive Review | Design
Garmin Vivoactive Review | Design
The first time we heard about the Vivoactive HR we thought that Garmin had just added an optical heart rate (OHR) monitoring to upgrade the Vivoactive, but it did a lot more than that. The Vivoactive HR is typically a total redesign of Garmin’s all-rounder GPS fitness smartwatch. Apart from maintaining a rectangular touch screen, every other thing about the band and case was changed.
The functional styling indicates that this timepiece was created more for the fitness fans than for fashionistas aiming to track just a few activities. Moreover, where the main Vivoactive was sleek, tiny, and stylish (to the extent that it was regularly mistaken for the Apple smartwatch), the Vivoactive HR is thicker, bigger, and comes in just one color which is “black.”
Also, the silicone strap perfectly fits the case so nearly that it seems to be the only piece with the case, however, the Vivoactive HR’s strap is equally detachable and replaceable.
Garmin Vivoactive HR takes up an interesting space in the brands huge line of fitness tracking wrist technology. Additionally, it blends the shape and overall look of the brand’s fitness bracelets with the technology seen in Garmin’s high-end sports watches such as the Fenix Chronos.
Furthermore, the Vivoactive HR has a 20.7 by 28.6mm color touch screen display with 205 by 148 pixels resolution. Also, you’ll see two small, rectangular buttons beneath the screen and somewhere around the roll of the bottom edge of the case, both with minus signs on them.
The right button is the start button which is used for starting and stopping activity tracking, while the button on left side acts as a back button while navigating data screens, and also controls the backlight. The case is water resistant to 5 ATM, and inside it is Garmin’s Elevate optical heart rate monitor, a GPS, electronic compass, and a barometric altimeter.
Garmin Vivoactive HR has almost all the activity tracking functionalities of Garmin’s high-end Fenix 3 line of smartwatches. It tracks walking, pool swimming, cycling (indoor and out), running (indoor and out), stand-up paddling, rowing, and golfing (with access to about 40,000 golf courses). However, it does not have “multisport” app features.
What this means is that while it will track running, pool swimming, and cycling metrics, it can’t track a triathlon. Essentially, the running features are a trimmed-down version of Garmin’s Forerunner watch series. It will record pace, speed, and distance but doesn’t have deeper running metrics. Additionally, for cyclists, the Vivoactive HR can track speed and (using an optional sensor) pedal cadence but does not pair with power meters.
Finally, the Vivoactive HR equally provides remote control access to Garmin’s Varia smart bike lights and Virb action cameras. If that’s not enough, the smartwatch is equally compatible with Garmin’s Connect IQ store where you can easily download more widgets, apps, and watch faces to add even more customized functionality.
Garmin Vivoactive HR Review | Performance
One good thing about Garmin’s rising variety of fitness watches is that they all pair to the same free Garmin Connect (iOS and Android) mobile phone app. After downloading the app and creating an account by answering some personal metrics questions which are quite easy. When you’re done, click the “more” button located on the bottom right corner of the app, then scroll down and choose “Garmin Devices,” and tap on the blue bar which you’ll see at the bottom of the screen that reads “Add Device.”
The screen that follows has a list of every Garmin’s products. Now, you want to click on Vivoactive HR and follow the clear instructions. Due to the fact that all the devices use the same app, it does not really matter which Garmin fitness watch you’re using (from the Vivosmart to the Index Smart Scale and to the Vivofit) every of the data are shown in the app the exact same way, on the exact same pages, in the exact same colors. It certainly crushes the learning curve for those that stay in the Garmin family.
Interestingly, getting up and running on the Garmin Vivoactive HR is direct and easy. After choosing a watch face (we selected the Pendulum because it has time, date, as well as a step and moves progress bars) it was simply a matter of pairing it to our smartphone. Once we connect it, it instantly started to vibrate with smart notifications.
The amazing thing is that we received 2 or 3 notifications before we could even get outside. When the notification displays on the face of the watch, it comes with a “clear” button directly beneath it so with just the tap of a finger, it is likely to delete it or click on it to get more information from the message.
Additionally, getting to the data screens of the Vivoactive HR requires you to swipe up or down across the screen. Also, Garmin Connect app permits easy reordering and editing of the data screens, so it’s pretty simple to set up a customized experience. We’ve never been much keen to know the number of calories we burn every day, so we typically hid that data screen from the menu.
However, we’re continuously monitoring our heart rate so we moved it directly under the time of the day screen on the menu to enable us to get to it as quickly as possible by simply swiping up once. Now, this takes us to the touchscreen.
Essentially, touch screens have great appeal. The thought of swiping via screens of data and getting what you want with just the tap of a finger can seem paranormal. However, in day-to-day use, we found ourselves always wishing for buttons.
For example, beginning an activity requires you to press the right “start” button once, and then choosing the activity using the touchscreen. After you’ve selected an activity with a tap, you need to press the start button a second time to start recording the activity.
A certain morning on my way to a group cycling ride, I didn’t remember to start the activity and tried doing it while on the ride. To start the ride, I had to press the button, then remove a glove to choose the activity (the touchscreen does not work all the time with gloved fingers) and then I press the start button one more time.
However, without a touchscreen, it would have been 3 or 4 quick button presses which could be done with gloves on. But even without the gloves, the touch screen was always less responsive than we assumed it should have been. Additionally, we’re usually swiping at the screen multiple times before it could move from one data set to the next.
Moreover, switching back and forth between buttons and the screen almost seems to contradict the advantage of having a touchscreen in the first place. Obviously, these are little problems, but worth stating for anyone who is worried by response delay in their tech.
Finally, as for tracking activities, Garmin Vivoactive HR really tried. We had no issues monitoring any of the metrics we were tracking after launching an activity. When we finished, we stopped and saved the activity, and the Vivoactive HR simply synced with our smartphone and uploaded the activity to Garmin Connect automatically.
The moment you’re on Garmin Connect, the data can be configured to automatically upload to other famous social activity tracking sites such as Training Peaks, Strava, MyFitnessPal, Runkeeper, etc.
Vivoactive HR | Golf Tracking
A good Garmin golf device alone will cost you some extra bucks, so having the function loaded into a standard sports smartwatch is a good news for weekend hackers.
It was tested on the course, and as expected from Garmin, it works very well. It gives you distances to the front, back and also middle. You can equally call up a map of the green and also check lay-up distances. That’s not all, there’s also the availability of a live scorecard.
The only real problem is that contrast to dedicated golf watches, the course data have to be downloaded on your smartphone before you play and then pair both devices to start. It’s slightly a tricky process, and likely to break down. However, we ended up trying to fix it while walking down the first fairway, this isn’t the best.
And definitely, you don’t get the awesome features of the new Approach X40 or Approach S2. For example, it does not sync up with the TruSwing, and it doesn’t have automatic shot detection. But for cyclists/runners who golf, it’s a great combination of features, even if there’s a drawback in usability.
Garmin Vivoactive HR | Sports Tracking
We’ll try to test as many of the different modes as possible in the future, but for the purpose of this Garmin Vivoactive HR review, we’re sticking to golfing, swimming, and running. The majority of the other modes imitate these features, and they are most critical in terms of testing accuracy and making comparisons.
Tracking is a fairly standard affair when running: you get the obvious pace/distance data, heart rate, cadence, and pace. However, it falls short of a dedicated Garmin Forerunner by failing to include more advanced details like recovery details or VO2 Max, but for the majority of runners out there, it’s a considerable set of metrics.
And yes, the biggest addition here is the heart rate, thanks to the Elevate sensor beneath the watch (Garmin’s own technology). It’s a standard optical sensor and its work is to look for the blood pulsing under your skin, and just like many other similar devices on the market that promise the same, it does a fairly good job.
It kept within 2bpm of a chest strap on longer runs, making it a fantastic acceptable pointer of how hard we worked. All through a steady run, of which a little amount of hill work is involved, the Garmin layered onto the chest strap with notable accuracy. Since Garmin syncs with Strava, we used it to track our runs, and the heart rate data opens all sorts of new features, which just makes the entire experience very detailed. In a nutshell, heart rate is super awesome.
But as we’ve already proven, optical is far away from being Electrocardiography (ECG) on the wrist. The technology is prone to completely breaking down at high intensity and the Garmin Vivoactive HR is definitely not exceptional. Just compare the graphs below of a chest strap versus a short interval session that shows the freaking out optical versus the smooth curves of the strap.
While it was faultless during continuous exercise, as we included a surge of activity to our workout and our heart rate skyrocketed to 190, the Vivoactive delayed at about 165. It appeared paralyzed there and when we came back to rest and the chest strap noticed heart rate falling back to around 150, the Vivoactive still dropped behind.
Garmin Vivoactive HR is ideal for general running, however, if you desire to start tracking intervals, you’ll have to purchase a chest strap to pair with the device.
Interestingly, Garmin devices have been performing well in our swimming tests as well, and the Vivoactive HR comes with all the same modes that made sure the original Vivoactive topped our pool review awhile ago. It’ll track stroke, lengths, pace, distance, calories, count/rate – and it’s one of the most dependable devices out there.
Cyclists will get standard GPS data on distance and speed, but Garmin Vivoactive will pair with the brand’s variety of bike sensors, so committed cyclists are well catered for.
Garmin Vivoactive HR Review| Activity Tracking
Garmin has really done well with activity tracking, and it’s now a big feature of its latest line-up of specialist sports smartwatches.
Again, it’s perhaps one of the best activity trackers out there in terms of detail and accuracy. Movable goals are automatically calculated and steps are recorded, so the longer you use it, the smarter and harder your goals will be.
Alongside step tracking, it will equally keep checks on your active minutes and the move bar is a great way of notifying you of inactive habits. Also, if you feel like you require a kick-start to move away from your desk. As the move bar gets filled up, you’ll have to get away from your chair to get it cleared.
However, the real triumph is actually the way Garmin treats heart rate. Basically, resting heart rate is one of the primary metrics for examining your fitness. You’re getting fitter as it gets lower.
This is a major screen on Garmin Vivoactive HR. You can simply tap in further to see it plotted over the past week. Also, one of the coolest ways to look for issues with your health or detect overtraining is to be checking your resting heart rate daily, and we love this section of the Vivoactive HR.
You can equally go further in the app. Go over to the menu and select Health Stats >> All Day Heart Rate, and you can easily view charts of resting heart rate over a period of 7-days or 4-weeks.
However, the only problem – as we’ve discovered with the Garmin Fitbit Blaze – is that building dependable data can be quite tedious. Overall, the Vivoactive is very accurate but except you wear the watch all through the day, it won’t find those all-time low bpms – and with a single day off, it can throw the data, resulting in some chaotic graphs.
Furthermore, the sleep tracking functions of the Garmin are slightly unexciting as well. The Vivoactive HR will track sleep automatically, and often frames the data within your regular bedtime hours. We assume that’s to notify you of how frequently you go to bed on time, but then, life does not work that way.
There’s equally a lack of aggregated data and there’s not enough to see regarding sleep trends. Typically, you can delve into any night’s sleep from the past 7-days in the app, but we always discovered that a data was slightly off, showing no light sleep or deep sleep. In a nutshell, if you’re into sleep, Garmin is certainly not the best device for you.
Swim Tracking Features
Similar to its predecessor, Garmin Vivoactive HR is equally waterproof to 5ATM (up to 50m) and the device is already fortified with a very dedicated swim tracking mode. It does not have an open water option like you see on some of the more costly Garmin devices out there such as Garmin Fenix 3. This is designed only for jumping in your local pool.
Good enough, setting the whole thing up is as simple and effortless as tracking a bike ride or a run. Just punch the right physical button under the screen and touch the Pool Swim tracking mode. For swimmers that are just doing it for the first, it’ll allow you to choose the pool size (25/50m) in addition to a custom size option, and this will be set to default when next you jump into the pool.
Moreover, the screen inverts offering you data fields for interval distance, interval time, total distance and time. Also, the optical heart rate monitor is deactivated because it’s of little to no use in the water. This is also the same thing with the touchscreen, even though you can mark lap intervals using the physical buttons.
We compared it to TomTom Spark’s swim tracker mode that has proven to be unfailing for accuracy in the pool. There were a few obvious disparities in distance recorded with a 10 stroke disparity for average stroke rates.
However, what you’ll get with Garmin Vivoactive HR is a decent collection of metrics such as speed, pace, and moving time signifying when you’ve taken some breaks within the session. Apart from all these, there are equally graphs breaking down pace, your SWOLF score, and strokes. Even if swimming is not your major reason for purchasing Garmin Vivoactive HR, there’s an ample of data to tap into and it’s a strong performer in the water.
Vivoactive HR Smart Features
Garmin Vivoactive HR App
The Vivoactive HR makes use of Garmin Connect, which is available for both Android and iOS operating systems. It equally has a web element that is much more feature-rich, which can be accessed through connect.garmin.com.
It’s an excellent platform, although quite confusing and complicating when you’re making use of the daily activity tracking features. The first thing you’re offered on the app is a set of segments, which must be slide through to view your activities. And from there, you can jump into workouts, cycles, runs, or your daily activity data.
What you should really be sure of is that Garmin Connect app is complete and all your data is somewhere in there. Even though it’s not challenging Fitbit in terms of simplicity, but it’s one of the most complete estimations of your fitness around.
Finally, do not forget that Garmin lets you spit out data to Strava, and that happens to be our best platform. That means you can simply cycle or run with your watch, sync it up when you return and enjoy all the sections and personal records for your paths as normal.
Garmin Vivoactive HR Battery Life
Garmin is slightly a silent hero as far as battery life is concerned, and the Vivoactive HR is definitely not left out. You’ll get about 5 solid days of battery life even while running all the features including GPS. Additionally, Garmin puts GPS tracking at about 16-hours, which we strongly agree with. That simply means that long weekend walks, multiple rounds of golf, and excessive runs are all within its dispatch.
Interestingly, Garmin Vivoactive HR will do lots of things with very little battery, you can get a decent run even when the battery level looked extremely low.
Additionally, the low brightness, low-resolution screen is the primary reason why it can boast of such remarkable longevity.
Watch this short video review of this watch:
Vivoactive HR Review | Conclusion